After months of courting gamers and building hype, it seems Sony’s near perfect Playstation 4 launch has slipped at the final hurdle.
The problem? The latest Playstation console has become a victim of its own success. In a week since launch the PS4 has already sold out, much to the dismay of many Christmas shoppers and eager-to-please parents.
Like many other countries around the world, Australia is in the grip of a PS4 shortage. But this goes beyond your expected lapse in supply over the hectic Christmas period. While stock is reportedly being replenished in the US and the UK, some Australian retailers are hinting that mid to late February may be a more realistic timetable for getting more PS4s on the shelves.
To this point, on launch day last week, electronic retailers across Australia’s largest shopping centre, Chadstone, had no PS4s available for sale. What stock they received went towards catering to a mass of pre-orders that were made back in August.
It gets worse. Anecdotally, that initial shipment catered to less than a quarter of the total list of pre-orders in some stores. Sony has confirmed that another shipment of consoles is due before Christmas, but how much of a dent this makes to the existing queue of expecting PS4 owners remains to be seen.
If you are desperate to buy a PS4, and will do (or pay) anything to get one under your Christmas tree, some savvy eBay retailers still have stock. They are capitalising on the lack of supply, charging close to $1000 for a console that’s retailing for $550.
That’s funny, given that Sony actually charged just under $1000 for the original PS3 back when it launched in 2007. It also held back that console launch from November 2006 to March 2007 in order to guarantee supply and address the delays in manufacturing the blu-ray player in the console.
As you can probably guess, many took to Facebook to vent their concerns over the situation directly to Sony.
And needless to say, Sony didn’t reply to all of the comments; particularly the stock complaints on that thread.
But despite the silence on that front, Sony’s local MD Michael Ephraim, was happy to front the media and explain the company’s position on the matter.
He said that the demand for the PS4 has “exceed imagination”.
"This is pretty much a global launch, and there are limits to what we can produce. For a million units to be sold in the US in one day, is an astronomical number,” Mr Ephraim told Technology Spectator.
For the record, Sony recently reported that around 700,000 units were sold across Europe and Australasia in the two days after launch on November 29. A Sony spokesman confirmed that the company has not released local sales figures for Australia.
“We are doing our best to fulfil our channels, and we will meet demand, unfortunately some people might miss out by Christmas,” Ephraim says.
Valuing Australian fans
He added that Sony values the Australian market and its loyal fans and the move to delay the launch PS4 in Japan until February is one indicator of the company’s commitment to the Australian market. Though, Sony, earlier told the press that this move was related to lack of Japanese-focused launch titles.
The key issue for Sony is whether this initial lack of supply will eat into the PS4's overall sales figures. There’s no denying that some gamers may have changed their purchase to an Xbox One as a result of not being able to get their hands on a PS4 at launch. Having said that, it’s worth noting that some faithful fans are willing to wait for supply to return.
This situation has also forced retailers into the awkward position of proactively trying to deflate PS4 hype and push the Xbox One, or even Nintendo’s Wii U, as an instock alternative to cement as many console sales as possible this Christmas. It would be a mistake to underestimate this point, as retailers play a key role in educating the market and influencing the purchasing decisions and other non-gaming savvy consumers (like parents) at point of sale.
What impact this will have on the console’s overall success is yet to be seen, as this is the first time that two rival consoles have launched in the same pre-Christmas period.
Ephraim says that despite the early hiccup, the PS4 will still come out on top.
“Maybe some people are being switch-sold, but we know that of people that love Playstation and are loyal to Playstation that will wait for the stock,” he said.
“I've been around for the PS1, PS2 and PS3 launch, and these are marathons, they are not a sprint. We know that sentiment is in favour of PS4.”
Ephraim’s confidence is backed up by local research from Roy Morgan and Telyste, which confirms that consumers are more likely to purchase an PS4 over an Xbox One this Christmas.
However, Foad Fadaghi from Telsyte says that given a PS4 supply shortage and potential for an Xbox One drought as well, most consumers will probably just settle for any next generation console this Christmas.
He adds that even Nintendo’s Wii U might pick up more sales than expected over the holiday season, due to attention the other two console launches are bringing to the gaming sector.
“I don't think it's a zero sum game. I don't think one device is the champion device and will outsell and kill the other product,” Fadaghi says.
“I think both [the PS4 and the Xbox One] will be quite successful.”